By Bethel Galarno
Im a hard-working Northern Michigan woman. My husband Steven and I
have dreamed of owning a restaurant for many years. Recently, he has
worked for three factories in the Kalkaska area that each closed their
doors due to the slowing economy. I have two children. My son
graduated from Northwestern Michigan College this spring, is working
full time and is a member of the National Guard. My daughter is a
postal worker and a mother of three perfect children. We all love our
Do you believe in our beautiful state? Do you have faith that we can
rebuild this special place? Well, I do...
and this is part of my story of my struggles in opening a small
business in a small Northern Michigan town.
In March of 2009, there was an ad in the paper for starting a
restaurant for $20,000. I knew the cost would end up being a little
more than that after everything is said and done. It turned out to be
MUCH more than that! The building we invested in was just wooden
studs with a cement floor. We signed papers and went to work. Day
after day, for over a year, weve put in 12-15 hour days to complete
our dream. We cut 130 feet of our cement floor; dug trenches to put in
the plumbing; we had to do all the electrical work and put in new
The restaurant is 16 feet wide and 127 feet long, has two 6x8
bathrooms. The kitchen is full of all the required equipment and has
passed all inspections. We still need to set all our fixtures and
faucets, and get our final license and inspections. Our first order to
fill our inventory is ready to be delivered. Serve-Safe classes have
been paid for and completed. Our insurance is lined up, the phone
service is already hooked up, the drywall is put up, has been sanded,
painted and is ready and waiting! Yet my booths sit collecting dust
while I struggle to make ends meet diligently seeking the last $7,000
standing in the way of us opening our doors.
Knowing we would need an additional $7,000 for completion, I contacted
a Northern Michigan company that offers small loans for small
businesses. They came to look at the restaurant, said they loved it
and thought it could be quite prosperous, and said they saw no problem
helping us with the loan. We filled out paper work and thought the
deal was done. Three months later, when it came time to use the money
that company mistakenly thought Fife Lake is part of Kalkaska County
and I was informed that they do not work with businesses in Grand
Traverse County because supposedly Grand Traverse County is too rich
to warrant their assistance.
And that is where the hunt began. I have been to 40 banks, six
different branches of the Small Business Association, as well as Rural
Development and various credit unions. They all tell me the same line:
I dont have two years of invoices, and Oh, you dont serve liquor?
Were sorry... our regulators wont allow us to help.
Most recently, I contacted a state representative. He genuinely
sounded shocked that the SBA, Rural Development, banks, etc would not
help me. He said to give him a day or two and hed get back to me
with some type of answer. Well, two weeks have gone by and no phone
call. Do our representatives even believe in the rebirth of our
state, I wonder?
The restaurant is at 98% completion. We have invested $92,000 into
this project of ours by selling everything weve ever owned, including
my jewelry. I have 12 people waiting to be employed, including myself.
Ive been seeking only $7,000 to complete and open my doors.
I hear that its such a small loan, such a prosperous business idea,
some say, Call me when you open! It sounds great... well order some
food! The restaurant is located in beautiful Fife Lake, a very
quaint and busy village. Were reaching out to families where kids
can come have fun and parents can relax. Delivery is not available in
the Fife Lake area. There are 10,000 people in a 10-mile range, all of
whom will now have a place to go and a place that delivers.
I own a 10-acre parcel (with a clear deed). I have always offered to
use this as collateral. The parcel was appraised at $38,900 in
November, 2009. I need $7,000 to put 12 currently unemployed people
back to work, paying taxes, paying their bills, helping to rebuild our
gorgeous state, but instead, they are waiting, like I am, and living
on unemployment or on state aid. None of this is helping our states
goal of prospering.
Im not seeking a handout. Instead, Im looking for a hand UP. If
anyone out there has an idea before all is lost, please contact me at
231-384-0827 anytime and thank you for your time.